American-Arab terror alliance might be more talk than walk

While on the surface the United States might seem like it has a close-knit and like-minded relationship with GCC nations, some U.S. officials say those American allies might be promising actions they aren't truly willing to carry out, as a way to appease the U.S. government but not foment anger or worse in their own country.

Case in point: U.S. President Donald Trump and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani met recently to discuss “close defense cooperation” intended to “strengthen efforts to defeat violent terrorists."

Yet Daniel Glaser, a former high-ranking Obama Administration aide, said some terror financiers “operate openly and notoriously” in Qatar, as well as in Kuwait. Glaser, who made the comments to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in February, was the administration’s assistant secretary for Terrorist Financing under the Treasury Department.

Other officials have echoed those sentiments. In late 2016, Adam Szubin, acting undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the Treasury Department, talked about what he called the “selective enforcement” of counter-terrorism finance laws in both Qatar and Kuwait.

David Andrew Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democraciestold Gulf News Journal it is unlikely that Qatar is trying very hard to move against terrorists.

He pointed out that neither Qatar nor Kuwait has disclosed charges against any individuals on a U.S. list of designated terror financiers.

Weinberg also said that as of mid-December, Qatar had not filed any mutual legal assistance requests with the U.S. Justice Department related to terror finance – the main method of asking for U.S. evidence to use in its own court proceedings.

“This suggests that they aren’t particularly interested in using American evidence against Qatari residents or Qatari nationals whom the U.S. has sanctioned on charges of funding al-Qaida,” Weinberg said.

Perhaps ironically, Qatar and Kuwait were not included in Trump’s executive order barring immigrants from some Middle Eastern countries.

“It's honestly quite hard to say why travelers from certain countries have been targeted with this U.S. travel ban but not others.” Weinberg said.

He added that White House Chief of Staff “Reince” Priebus has said that some countries might get added to the list in the future.

Weinberg also said that Qatari and Kuwaiti leaders are seemingly loath to go after certain terrorist groups. For example, Qatar has declined to go after members of Hamas.

“Qatar also appears to have been inexcusably negligent against U.S.-designated or U.N.-designated funders of al-Qaida’s Syrian branch, taking no visible enforcement efforts to convict and jail any of these individuals,” he said. “As one journalist covering the gulf recently told me, ‘In Doha, Nusra just isn’t seen as a terrorist organization, but rather as an authentically Syrian local resistance organization.' "

Weinberg said Nusra remains connected to Al-Qieda, despite changing its name in July, and is actually the largest branch in the terror group's history.

Qatar also has yet to release a list of banned terrorist groups, even though its neighbors Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have done so in the last three years.

“This only exacerbates the uncertainty as to what is beyond the realm of legally acceptable in Qatar.” Weinberg said.